Tag: adult books

16+ Best Books for Writers

16+ Best Books for Writers: Books for Every Writer

A few days ago, my daughter leaned over my shoulder and asked what I was reading on my phone. It was a blog post about writing villains, so I told her it was about how to write a better story. Which led her to say:

“But you already know how to write.”

Yes and no. Yes, I already do know a lot about writing and have even gotten a few publications. No, I don’t know everything there is to know – not by a long shot. I can still learn to be a better writer.

No matter where you are on your journey, you can learn and improve. My favorite way to learn is by reading.

 

It’d been a couple of years since I last wrote a roundup of writing craft books – time for an update!

I’ve broken the list down into sections:

  • inspiration for all writers
  • books for fiction writers
  • books for nonfiction writers
  • books for children’s book writers
  • books on the business of being an author

A challenge: we learn a lot by studying our own genre – but I’ve also gained a lot by reading about writing in other genre’s. So consider branching out and reading a book that you normally wouldn’t.

 

Inspiration for all Writers

Book Cover for "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic: Creative Writing Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert is my top picks for all writers. Writing is hard – not just because producing good work requires substantial labor, but because our own mind often works against us in the form of internal critics, writers’ block, and lack of motivation. Her perspective will have you re-think your writing in ways that bring more joy and less fear.

 

 

Books for Fiction Writers:

Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron – This book is still my favorite for fiction writing. It dives into what makes a story compelling. You can check out Lisa Cron’s Ted Talk to get a flavor of what the book is about. Bonus: my writerly friends assure me that it’s quite understandable even if you’re not a brain nerd like me.

 

Book Cover: "Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)" by Lisa Cron

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science To Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) is Lisa Cron’s newest novel-writing book. While Wired for Story goes through the logic of her ideas and method in detail, this one is more practical. It includes many exercises that will help you plan your story to be successful from the beginning. If you like plotting out novels and find writing exercises helpful for finding voice and discovering your character’s motive – this is a good choice.

 

Book Cover: Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last book on Novel Writing You'll Ever Need" by Jessica Brody

Save the Cat Writes a Novel: The Last Book On Novel Writing You Will Ever Need by Jessica Brody  – The original Save the Cat book was written to help screenwriters, but many novelists found that, with a little adaptation, the method also applied very well to writing books. Now Jessica Brody has written a book just for us novelist – with examples and additional information just for novelists. (Though I think a lot can be applied to shorter forms – like picture books.) The method is heavy on plot development – even if you don’t pre-plot your books, it can be helpful for analyzing a rough draft and making changes to improve pacing and story arc. (I used it this way in revising my first novel.)

 

Book cover: "Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: The complete Guide to mystery, Suspense, and Crime."

Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: The Complete Guide to Mystery, Suspense, and Crime by Hallie Ephron – If you’re writing anything in the mystery genre, this is a great book. Even if you don’t write in the mystery genre, consider giving it a shot. After all, nearly all books have a hidden storyline that’s slowly revealed in clues over time – like backstory or important events that happen off-stage.

 

Books for Nonfiction Writers:

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by Willian Zinsser – This book is in its billionth revision and jillionth reprinting for a reason. This primer will help you think about how to write nonfiction books that readers can’t put down.

 

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind – This book is focused on a specific form of nonfiction writing – creative or narrative nonfiction. It’s nonfiction told in narrative form so the reader can step inside the story.

 

How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larson – When writing nonfiction you often send publishers a proposal rather than a completed manuscript. That can be daunting if you’ve never written a proposal before. This book has everything you need to know to write a proposal. If you have no idea what I’m even talking about, this would be a good place to start. It’s thorough but written to be an easy read and includes lots of helpful samples from real proposals.

 

The Weekend Book Proposal: How to Write a Winning Proposal in 48 hours and Sell Your Book by Ryan G. Van Cleave – If you want a lighter version to get you started on your book proposal, this might be the book for you. The title is misleading, though. That means 48 working hours. Maybe some people work around the clock on the weekend but I, for one, like sleep and food. Misleading title aside, it’s a helpful book and would be a good choice for someone just starting out with writing proposals.

 

Books for Children’s Book Writers:

Most writing craft books assume you are writing for adults. Principles of good characters, pacing, and plot hold for all books, no matter the age of your audience. But there are also differences between the kids and adult book markets and the needs of these audiences. So if you’re writing for kids, check out these books, too, in addition to the ones above.

 

Book Cover:"Writing Picture Books: A Hands on Guide from Story Creation to Publication" By Anne Whitford Paul

Writing Picture Books: A Hands-on Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul – If you write picture books, you need this book. I read the original edition a couple of years ago and learned so much from it. This past year a revised edition came out with updated examples and new information about the market. A friend invited me to an online book study group to go through the new edition. Even though I had read the previous edition, I still learned a ton. It really is that good.

 

Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grades Readers by Mary Kole – I found this book after reading many of the helpful articles on Mary Kole’s webpage. It’s an introduction to writing middle grade and young adult books. If you don’t know what that means or what the difference is, this is a great place to start.

 

Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children by Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas – This primer covers everything you need to know to get started writing nonfiction for kids. It was a great book for me when I was getting started and it’s still a great book now that I have a few manuscripts under my belt. Note: this book goes in and out of print which means the price can fluctuate a lot. I recommend keeping an eye out for used copies.

 

Books about the Business of Being an Author

Book Cover: "The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman

The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman – This is the only book I’m including on the list that I have not, personally, read from cover to cover. (I’m working on it!) I’m including it based on what I have read so far, the numerous recommendations I’ve been given, and my experience of getting so much valuable information off of her blog over the years. There are lots of books that cover one aspect of the writing business (I list some below), but this is the only one I’ve seen that is comprehensive. If you want to have a career in writing – this book will tell you everything you need to know.

 

Book Cover: "The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters" By Wendy Burt-Thomas

The Writers Digest Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Burt-Thomas – After you’ve finished your manuscript masterpiece, you’ll have to write a query letter so you can begin to query agents and editors (i.e. try to convince them to take on your book). This one-page document is somehow even harder than writing the manuscript itself. This is an entire book that will help you learn how to craft a one-page document.

 

Book Cover: "Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market: 2019"     Book Cover: "Writer's Market 2019"

Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market or, if you’re writing for adults: Writers Market – Once you’ve gotten your manuscript or proposal squeaky clean and ready to send out, you’ll need to figure out how to get it into the hands of the agent or editor of your dreams. These books are designed exactly for that. They’re updated every year to keep up with changes in the market.

 

The Book – If you write for children, you should be a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). One membership perk is this free book. It’s available on the website as a PDF or you can pay for a print version. Your first year of membership they’ll send you the print version for free.

 

There you go – 16 of my favorite books about writing. Do you have any I should add?

 

 

200+ Children’s Book Reviews

200+ Children's Book Reviews

I love reviewing connecting people with books almost as much as I love reading them. That’s one reason I review so many books here on my blog. And since I’ve started doing my Kidlit Karma project, I’m doing a lot more reviews.

Just one problem: it’s not that easy to find things here on the old blog.

So if you need, say, a nonfiction book for a tween – sure I’ve got it. …Somewhere… Something had to be done.

Now I’ve created a master page for all my book reviews. Yay!

It’s sorted in two ways:

  1. Ages and stages – this includes age ranges like baby, child, tween, teen, and adult. It also includes stages like early reading.
  2. Topics – Jump here to get a collected list of all STEM, nonfiction, diverse books, and books for writers. Within each topic they’re sorted by age to make things easy.

So, go forth and find a book to read!

 

CHECK IT OUT

Best Books for Writers

I’ve been working hard on improving my writing lately. And my first stop when I want to learn about anything is usually a book. Today I gathered up my favorite writing craft books from all the various nooks and crannies and I’m going to share them with you.

 

Books for Fiction Writers:

Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron – Half of my writers group has been raving about this book since they saw the author at a conference last year. I’m just now getting around to reading it but…. wow. This is a great guide to writing fiction for any genre and any age range. Bonus: my writerly friends assure me that it’s quite understandable even if you’re not a brain nerd like me.

 

Writing Picture Books: A Hands-on Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul – If you write picture books, you need this book. I read this late last year and I could feel myself leveling up as I read it. This book covers the basics of writing for kids, so it’s a great pick for a newer writer. But I think it really shines for people who are less knew but still have a lot of room for growth. (Which is all of us, right?) The tools and methods she discusses for revision have become staples of my process. Seriously, this is the best.

 

Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grades Readers by Mary Kole – I found this book after reading many of the helpful articles on her webpage. It covers writing middle grade and young adult books. If you don’t know what that means or what the difference is, this is a great place to start.

 

 

Books for Nonfiction Writers:

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by Willian Zinsser – This book is in about it’s billionth revision and jillionth reprinting. This book is geared towards writing for adults, but the advice is just as relevant if you’re writing to kids. At the end of the day, good writing is good writing and this will help you get there.

 

Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children by Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas – This primer covers everything you need to know to get started writing nonfiction for kids. It was a great book for me when I was getting started and it’s still a great book now that I have a few manuscripts under my belt.

 

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind – This book is focused on a specific form of nonfiction writing – creative or narrative nonfiction. It’s nonfiction told in narrative form so the reader can step inside the story. Like On Writing Well, it’s geared for those writing for adults, but the techniques still apply when writing for younger audiences.

 

How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larson – When writing nonfiction you often send publishers a proposal rather than a completed manuscript. This book is everything you need to know to write a proposal. If you have no idea what I’m even talking about, this would be a good place to start. It’s thorough but written to be an easy read and includes lots of helpful samples from real proposals.

 

The Weekend Book Proposal: How to Write a Winning Proposal in 48 hours and Sell Your Book by Ryan G. Van Cleave – If you want a lighter version to get you started on your book proposal, this might be the book for you. The title is a bit misleading. That means 48 working hours. Maybe some people work around the clock on the weekend but I for one like sleep and food. Misleading title aside, it’s a really helpful book and would be fine for someone just starting out with writing proposals.

 

Books for authors ready to submit:

Once you’ve gotten your manuscript or proposal squeaky clean and ready to send out, you’ll need to figure out how to get it into the hands of the agent or editor of your dreams. These books are designed exactly for that. They’re updated every year to keep up with changes in the market.

Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market or, if you’re writing for adults: Writers Market

 

The Book – If you write for children, you should be a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). One membership perk is this free book. It’s available on the website as a PDF or you can pay for a print version. Your first year of membership they’ll send you the print version for free.

6 Tips for Getting More Reading Done

6 tips

Right now I’m at 124 books for the year. That puts me behind on my personal goal of a 1000 books for a year.

Yes, one thousand.

No, I’m not crazy.

No, I don’t sit around reading all day. (But, yes, I wish I did.)

I’m strapped for time just like you. I have kids, work, laundry, volunteer work, and writing all vying for my time. I manage to squeeze in reading time around it all.

It’s not magic, it’s time management.

Here’s 6 tips to help you get more reading done, too.

  1. Read to your kids. Read aloud time has amazing benefits for kids. And reading aloud is just as beneficial for older children. Kids books aren’t just for kid’s anymore, either. (Hello, Harry Potter.) If you’re a writer in a child-appropriate genre, that can help you get reading done, too. Many of those 124 books I’ve garnered this year were read while piled on the couch with my kids.
  2. Use idle time in your schedule. Find pockets of time where you’re otherwise idle and put them to use. Riding mass transit, eating a meal alone, and watching your kids play at the park are all times when you could be reading.  It takes at least one cup pot of coffee for me to gain consciousness.  So I often start the day with a cup of black coffee and a book.
  3. Keep a book on hand. It’s old advice, but good advice. If you have a book on hand, you can put unexpected down time to use instead of whiling it away on your phone. Book reading apps mean no weight to carry around.
  4. Prioritize reading. If reading is important to you, you need to make time for it. Most of us spend a lot of time with media. Will binge watching Netflix improve your life? Will more facebook help you achieve your goals? Make sure you’re spending time on things that are important to you.
  5. Audio books.  Sometimes your hands are full but your mind is not. Gym time, car rides, gardening, and walking the dogs are all times when you could be listening to a book.
  6. Read several books at once.  I read four books at a time: a fiction book, a research book, a writerly book, and an audiobook. Often research books and writerly books are dense. Not the best books for when my attention is divided or when I’m tired. Fiction is fluffier and better suited for these times. Audio books make use of gym time and my rare solo car ride. Reading multiple books means I can use all available reading time. Limiting myself to one in each category means I don’t lose focus. I have a much larger pile of books that are queued up after these are done.

There you have it. Not magic. Just spending time wisely and making use of small bits of time that would otherwise be lost to facebook.

Do you have any secrets for getting more reading done?

The Gift of Slothfulness

Last year I gifted myself a few days of sloth for the holidays. No projects, no deadlines, and few obligations. For someone who usually runs at full throttle, the downtime was amazing. I read books, watched movies, and enjoyed a much slower pace. After a few days my sloth account was full and I jumped back into the new year recharged.

This year I knew it was coming and spent days eagerly planning to be slothful. (How ironic is that?) I prepped myself with a stack of books, a pile of movies, and a knitting project or two. This year I couldn’t fit in days of complete slothfulness due to obligations and deadlines. I did manage a couple of weeks of semi-slothfulness, though.

So here’s what Sloth 2015 looked like:

Read:

  1. Waistcoats and Weaponry“(Finishing School book 3) by Gail Carriger  – I’ve been tearing through this series as quickly as I can get my hands on it.
  2. George’s Secret Key to the Universe” by Lucy and Stephen Hawking – Yes, that Stephen Hawking. Turns out his daughter writes novels. This is a rare gem – a kid’s book that doesn’t sacrifice good storytelling for good science.
  3. Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?” by Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek – What happens in the brain to turn a person into a zombie? Find out along with this accessible read. (TL;DR: check out the TedEX talk for part of the answer.)
  4. Voyager” (Outlander book 3) by Diana Gabaldon – This epic series is addictive. Do not attempt unless you have the next 48 hours cleared. No really. (I’ve been working on the series for a couple of years for just this reason.)

Videos:

  1. Star Wars – We began introducing our kids to the Star Wars movies. It’s important to start your nerdlings on the proper path from a young age.
  2. Crash course Astronomy – Yes, the whole series. (Ok, I skipped over a few early ones.) This is big science explained in layman’s terms.
  3. Crash Course Big History – Yes, the whole series. (Sloth, remember..?)
  4. Drunk History – I covered a good chunk of this over the last couple of weeks, too.
  5. Classic Christmas movies – If I’m honest, though. I had my nose in a book most of the time these were on. Kid’s occupied = reading time for mommy.

All in all, I’m calling it successful slothfulness. Now I’m easing myself back into the real world a little more recharged.

Hmm. I wonder if I can fit in a Summer Sloth….

2 Must-Have Books for a New Puppy

2 Must-Have Books for a New Puppy

It’s been a dog-centric week for me. I wasn’t joking about the new puppy. The Isaacs household has gone from zero dogs to two young dogs in under two weeks. Our home is much happier with dogs in it. It’s also a lot muddier. And a bit more hectic.

My reading the last couple of weeks has also been dog-centric. I’m re-reading two of my favorite dog training books: The Art of Raising a Puppy and How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend. Both were written by the Monks of New Skete.

The Art of Raising a Puppy

New Skete is an Orthodox Christian monastery in upstate New York. The Monks there have been breeding and training dogs for 40 years.Their books are about more than just basic training, though. They books focus on understanding and living with dogs. They’re equal parts training, philosophy, and natural history.

A couple of years ago our family visited New Skete. A family vacation took us within driving distance on a Sunday morning. The church was resplendent. The service was reverent. The grounds were beautiful. Unlucky for us, our unplanned visit was the same day they all left on retreat. Someday I’d like to go back to see more.  And maybe get a peek at their dogs.